GPL Blog

Book Review | Harley Quinn: Reckoning by Rachael Allen

From the publisher: When Harleen Quinzel scores an internship in a psych lab at Gotham University, she’s more than ecstatic; she’s desperate to make a Big Scientific Discovery that will land her a full-ride college scholarship and get her away from her abusive father. But when Harleen witnesses the way women are treated across STEM departments–and experiences harassment herself–she decides that revenge and justice are more important than her own dreams.

In this refreshingly feminist spin on the story of our favorite villainess, Harley Quinn: Reckoning traces Harleen’s journey from precocious, revenge-obsessed teenage girl to a hardcore justice-seeker on her way to becoming the most captivating Super Villain of all time. Vibrating with youthful energy and rage, this is one story that you won’t be able to put down.

Harleen working in a neurobiology lab, written by an actual neuroscientist? Um, yes, please! This is a fantastic Harley Quinn origin story, written as a YA novel set on Gotham University’s campus in the present day. I’m a casual DC fan, but I absolutely loved Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). I get those same manic vibes filtered through the female gaze here in HQ: R.

The author’s experience as a scientist shows in multiple ways throughout the book. Modern and historical accounts of real life harassment in the STEM field are mentioned, with further information provided in the Author’s Note. Harleen’s work in researching the Super Villain gene is presented in authentic detail, as well as hinting at her future involvement with Arkham Asylum, and bringing the nature vs nurture argument to the world of metahumans. The book also introduces real world genetic topics like the Warrior Gene, and its sociological concerns. I absolutely approve of novels that send me down Wikipedia rabbit holes in the course of reading them.

Harleen is canonically bisexual in this book and develops a relationship with one of the other girls in her lab. Several of the secondary main characters are POC, with Bianca in particular bringing her Puerto Rican heritage to the page.  Like many of Harleen and Harley’s stories, HQ:R deals with instances and themes of assault, abuse, and harassment.

This was a fantastic origin story in and of itself, but the focus on STEM absolutely sold it for me. I highly recommend it! The publisher notes that this is the start of a new trilogy in the DC Icons universe, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book (whose main character might be hinted at on the last page).

Thank you to Random House Childrens and NetGalley for the ARC!

Harley Quinn: Reckoning will be available for checkout after its April 26, 2022 release date. Birds of Prey is available for checkout in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.